African asylum seekers reaching South America, hope to get to the US

This is a Reuters story published in the New York Times yesterday about the increase in numbers of African asylum seekers getting into South American countries.  Some settle into black Muslim communities there, others try to come across land through Mexico to the US.

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Stowed away on cargo ships and unsure where their dangerous journeys will take them, increasing numbers of African immigrants are arriving in Latin America as European countries tighten border controls.

Some head to Mexico and Guatemala as a stepping stone to the United States, others land in the ports of Argentina and Brazil. Though many arrive in Latin America by chance, once in the region they find governments that are more welcoming than in Europe.

“One night I went to the seaport. I was thinking I was going to Europe. Later I found out I was in Argentina,” said Sierra Leone immigrant Ibrahim Abdoul Rahman, a former child soldier who said he escaped his country’s civil war by sneaking onto a cargo ship for a 35-day voyage.

In Brazil, Africans are now the largest refugee group, representing 65 percent of all asylum seekers, according to the Brazil’s national committee for refugees.

There are now more than 3,000 African immigrants living in Argentina, up from just a few dozen eight years ago. The number of asylum seekers each year has risen abruptly, to about 1,000 a year, and a third of them are African.

South America is more “welcoming” than Europe now. 

Many eventually settle here, marry, or become Argentine citizens. Some Africans who have arrived legally have managed to work as musicians and a few others play professional soccer for local clubs. The majority earn a living selling jewelry on the streets of Buenos Aires.

Abdoul Rahman met his Argentine wife when he sold her a ring five years ago. He sends money to his mother and seven sisters in Africa and stays close to his Muslim religion at Buenos Aires’ Alberdi mosque.

There Rahman meets dozens of other Africans for Friday prayers. Although some of those interviewed said they faced racism in Argentina, they agreed that it was minor compared to the xenophobia and anti-immigration laws that African migrants face in Europe.

Coming to the US if they can.

More and more immigrants from Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia are also making their way to Mexico and Central America via cargo ships, hoping to eventually reach the United States over land.

The number of Africans passing through the detention center in Tapachula, a city near Mexico’s southern border, was more than 600 last year, three times as many as in 2007.

Here is a post I wrote almost a year ago about Somalis detained at the Mexican border and how American immigration lawyers are jumping to help them get asylum,

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